In the wake of the recent protests in America, sparked by the brutal killing of George Floyd, there has been a worldwide outpour of support for the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement. Racial injustice dominates countless chapters of our history and even in the 21st century, people are no stranger to the crime. Yet there are those who believe that America’s problem of growing intolerance is exclusive and only she will bear the brunt, and that it is unrelated to any other global issue – like an issue as widespread as that of Climate Change. To them, I will put this as plainly as I can, this is factually incorrect.
Let us break down the Black Lives Matter protest into three simple questions before we attempt to understand how this matter transcends boundaries.
What is the protest about?
In its entirety, the protest is for equal rights and equal opportunities despite colour, creed or class. It is an outcry to end injustice and an imbalance of authority.
Who are the Protestors?
Those who are being denied what is rightfully theirs, those who are seeking reforms for a better and safer future.
Who are they protesting against?
A power structure that is increasingly concentrated in the ruling class. A class for whom exceling at the expense of the livelihoods of others is likely considered customary.
Clearly the information above perfectly aligns with the current uprisings in America. Although, is it just limited to them? Let’s do an experiment. Read the same questions again, but this time in the context of environmental activism. How many of them did you answer similarly? Don’t we march for the same rights to our planet which generations previous to ours so ignorantly enjoyed? Aren’t we aware of the corporate level inadequacies that are stripping the earth of its natural resources? Has ecocide not been a part of our planet’s history and are we not all victims of a crime that rarely anyone is held accountable for?
Of course, law makers stand with us. Almost exactly like how the American government stands for its black community. Only on paper, hardly ever in reality.
This is a tough time for African Americans. The plight of the black community had already been aggravated in the past months by the disproportionate effect of the Coronavirus. In Michigan alone, 40% of the patients killed by the virus were black, even when they only make up 14% of the total population. George Floyd’s murder by the hands of an authority that was fundamentally supposed to protect and deliver justice, is a pain we can only empathise with. But black lives matter even beyond outright racist killings.
There is a link between abuse of nature and abuse of people. It is referred to as ‘Environmental Racism’. Communities stricken with poverty, unprotected by governments and exploited by justice systems, are more vulnerable to the consequences of a changing climate than we, the more fortunate ones. According to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science black Americans are exposed to 56% more pollution than they create, in comparison with white Americans, who are exposed to 17% less. And this isn’t just happening in America.
Baluchistan – Pakistan’s largest province, is rich in natural resources yet, it is severely under developed, dominantly poor and 88% of its population is currently facing water scarcity – an adverse effect of climate change. Despite continuously stripping away its resources, the government has failed to allocate enough of them back to Baluchistan itself. For a province so rich in natural gas, severe shortage is order of the day. So even though the term was coined in America, environmental racism hits close to home as well.
Systematic racism contributes to the systematic poisoning of our planet that is already being scorched and gutted bare. If we are unable to significantly detoxify our planet of the pollution enveloping it, the words ‘I can’t breathe’ may not for long be only an emblem of the black uprising.
Therefore, the movements demanding human rights and those pressing for better environmental practices are not and should not be isolated efforts, especially when the opponents we are pressing for equity from, are one and the same. Environmental and justice activists need to join forces and unite on a common front. Together we can educate and inspire change because, TOGETHER WE ARE LOUDER.